Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations (FIACONA) Pray for a Persecuted Church
 Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations (FIACONA)Pray for a Persecuted Church

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(Part of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable/Washington DC)


October 26, 2020


The Honorable Mike Pompeo

Secretary of State

Washington D.C.


Dear Mr. Secretary,

India Working Group is a part of the IRF Roundtable in Washington DC. We are a multifaith group with Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, and Ahmadi, faiths working towards the idea of freedom of religion and expression in India.


We would like to bring the case of Fr. Stan Swamy, an 83-year old Jesuit Priest in India, to your immediate attention. He was arrested on October 8 by India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) on false charges and is being held without bail under a law that grants unlimited powers to the police in the name of national security.


Fr. Stan was clearly arrested for political reasons: He has been a major voice of reason on behalf of the indigenous tribal people across the tribal belt of India and their land rights. He has worked all his life to educate and help pass several laws to protect the land rights of the tribal population.


Historically, tribal people in remote parts of India are entitled to their land and self-rule. This right was given to them during the British rule. When India became independent, their lands came to be protected and expressly enshrined in the Constitution of India. These constitutional provisions are somewhat similar to the rights and administrative responsibilities under treaties governing Indian reservations in the United States.


Moreover, Article 13 (3) (a) of the Indian Constitution validates the traditional and customary rights and practices of the tribal people as law, with the same effect as laws or ordinances passed by elected and appointed bodies of government. It is an important constitutional provision that empowers the tribal people to assert their traditional self-rule in the so-called Scheduled Areas inhabited by them.


Article 244 (1)  under the Fifth Schedule of the Indian Constitution provides the tribal villagers the authority to independently administer their resources.


Many villages where tribal people live vociferously assert these constitutional rights against encroachments by private companies (or even local governments). They do so by erecting a stone inscription locally known as Pathalgadi -- literally meaning carved/written in stone -- at the entrance to their village declaring that the lands belong to the specified tribe.


This movement has come to be referred to as Pathalgadi movement.

However, of late, Prime Minister Modi’s BJP government has been wanting to assert the rights of elected bodies to pass laws that would supersede the constitutional provisions that protect the rights of the tribal people.


The BJP governments, at both the state and national levels, want to transfer these constitutionally protected lands to private mining companies through legislations favoring the rights of the state and corporations.


In May 2016, the Modi government passed two legislations which enabled transfer of tribal land to the government as well as to commercial interests. This act of the government set in motion a series of events which helped the Pathalgadi movement regain its prominence. The Tribal people called their struggle Jal-Jungle-Jameen (water-forest-land). As the government showed no signs of respecting their rights, the tribal villages even boycotted the 2019 Indian General Election. But the newly re-elected Modi government began cracking down on the movement.


The crackdown was so brutal that by mid-2019, many tribal people and their leaders either went underground or publicly disassociated themselves from the Pathalgadi movement out of fear of arrest or harassment by the government. Some tribal areas witnessed more than 10% of the population getting arrested and charged under sedition laws.


In addition, the Modi government branded the movement as being anti-development and hence anti-national. Some of the tribal people in the forefront of this movement were branded as ‘Maoists’ working to overthrow elected governments. People like Fr. Stan became a prominent voice on behalf of the rights of the indigenous people against greedy corporations and were charged falsely with instigating violence to overthrow an elected government.


The National Investigating Agency (NIA) also says that Fr. Stan is responsible for the violence that took place in a place called Bhima Koregaon in the State of Maharashtra in 2017, during an annual event (celebrating the victory of British and Dalit forces over Brahmin Peshwas), because Fr. Stan knew some organizers of that peace rally.


So, the Modi government is branding Fr. Stan and 15 other writers and activists for tribal rights as Maoist insurgents working against the interest of the state. He and others are accused of engineering the violence during the peace rally!

Unfortunately, Fr. Stan is not alone. Any person in India, whether they are journalists, poets, writers, peace activists, religious leaders, student leaders, politicians or even government officials in some cases, are at risk of being branded anti-national and charged under sedition or terrorism laws for speaking out or inconveniencing the Modi government and his Hindu nationalist party.


Modi government brand the peace activists as a front variously inspired by Maoists, Christian evangelicals, or opium cultivators and resort to its favorite strategy – arresting and jailing all outspoken leaders, many of whom come from educated middle class tribal families. By arresting Fr. Stan, they are also branding the church in India as anti-national for speaking on behalf of vulnerable people – a win-win for the Hindu nationalist party.


The Government of India headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist BJP party have clearly embarked on a course that will transform India irrevocably into an intolerant fundamentalist state in the name of Hinduism.


Mr. Secretary, we believe it is very important that the United States understand the root cause of the problem and speak out strongly against Hindu nationalism, however inconvenient that may seem. The United States must stop accepting the Modi government’s public relations spin on the grave developments in India. Failing to do so will irrevocably jeopardize peace in that region as well as America’s long-term interest in that part of the world -- like the one we are witnessing in South China Sea region now.


Unfortunately, expression of private concerns or even warnings expressed privately behind closed doors do not work with Mr. Modi and his party. They listen only to public rebuke by their friends and allies. They care about their public image in the West. Unless you say something in public, they will ignore whatever you tell them in private.


In closing, we urge you to speak out both in private and in pubic about the continuing violations of human rights and religious freedom in India as already spelled out in detail by USCIRF. We urge you to demand that India immediately release all the prisoners of conscience, starting with the release of Fr. Swamy and the Bhima Koregaon Sixteen.


(Endorsed by Member organizations of India Working Group)

Latest News

India: Ranchi Archbishop leads human chain to demand Jesuit’s release

Oct 17 Matters India

Archbishop Felix Toppo of Ranchi October 16 joined priests, nuns and lay people to form a 5-kilometer human chain to denounce the arrest of an octogenarian Jesuit priest for alleged Maoist links.
Many of the more than 1,000 protestors, who lined up in the Jharkhand state capital of Ranchi lit candles, terming it a symbol of hope against the attempts to silence intellectuals and rights activists such as Father Stan Swamy.
The 83-year-old priest was arrested October 8 from his residence near Ranchi by the National Investigation Agency, the federal body to counter terrorism. The priest was taken to Mumbai the following morning.
He was presented before a court in the western Indian metropolitan city that remanded him to judicial custody until May 23.
The priest, who suffers from various illnesses such as Parkinson,.... 

Sajan K George: Intolerance towards Christians is growing in Northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. 

Oct 16 Asia News

India’s most populous state leads in terms of religious intolerance and ranks first for anti-Christian violence. Radical Hindu groups have stormed private homes, interrupted liturgical services, and called in the police after accusing pastors and faithful of "forced conversions".
A number of Christians have recently been attacked, beaten and arrested after they were falsely accused of proselytising and engaging in forced conversions.
Speaking to AsiaNews about the issue, Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christian (GCIC), said that “In Uttar Pradesh intolerance towards the Christian faith is growing every day.” What is more, “right-wing groups are increasing their attacks on vulnerable Christian communities.”....

Christians angry over blocking of church construction in India.

Oct 14 UCA News

A Christian group in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh is mulling a protest after the state government prevented construction of a church because it says it was illegal.
Arunachal Christian Forum (ACF) has asked the state government run by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to quickly resolve the issue in Buddhist-majority Tawang town. 
“The present government says that the church is illegal as it is on public land, referring to the Supreme Court order that bars construction of religious structures in public places, but that is not the case here,” Father Felix Anthony, spokesman for the Catholic Church in northeastern India, told UCA News.
“People here who are for or against the construction of the church are not for disturbing the peace of the ..

Latest News

The twilight of Indian democracy.

Oct 12 2020, The Scroll

Protest and journalism are criminal acts, Parliament is irrelevant, duties supersede rights,and profanity flows from the ordinary.
On October 8, Justice Sanjay Dhar of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court delivered a judgement that was remarkable in its ordinariness: it restated the law, common sense and the basic tenets of – what was once – the world’s largest democracy.
The case he was called to adjudicate upon was a two-year-old story in the Times of India. The headline read: “Stone pelters in J&K now target tourists, four women injured.” It was ordinary journalism, but it led to a criminal case against the reporter for “making or publishing a statement or rumour creating fear or alarm”.
The freedom of the press, said Justice Dhar, could not be imperiled on “grounds that are unknown to law” and “reporting of events, which a journalist has bona fide reason to believe to be true, can never be an offence”.... 

Indian Catholics call for the immediate release of Fr. Stan Swamy.

Oct 10 Asia News

Appeal by the Indian Bishops' Conference for the liberation of the Jesuit, arrested for alleged links with the Maoist rebels. Fr. Swamy has worked for decades to defend the rights of tribals in Jharkhand.  Concerns for his health.  The Indian Catholic community has always contributed to the building of the nation.
On October 8 tribal activist Fr. Stan Swamy was arrested on charges of "Maoist terrorism".  For over 50 years the Jesuit priest has been committed to defending the forest rights of the Adivasi in Jharkhand.  For months he had been interrogated and faced with false evidence.  Confreres, activists and members of the opposition to the Modi administration denounce his arrest as an "attack on the poor".  Under the government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (Hindu nationalist), he was also accused of sedition.  Below is the text of the appeal signed by Msgr.  Felix Machado, Archbishop of Vasai and general secretary ...

Christian man's Hearing Damaged in ‘Reconversion’ Attacks. 

Oct 12 Morningstar News

A Christian and his 20-year-old son have taken refuge at an undisclosed location since an attack on Sept. 2 in Chhattisgarh state left the father with permanent damage to his hearing, sources said.
Jagra Kashyap, 45, and son Asharam Kashyap had to leave their families at home in Badrenga village, Bastar District, as they fear for their lives if they return, pastor Vishwanath Kawasi said.
“Their families back home are also feeling unsafe, but if Kashyap and his son return there, they could be attacked any time again,” Pastor Kawasi told Morning Star News.
Demanding that Kashyap and his son renounce Christianity and return to Hinduism, a mob of about 60 Hindu extremists stormed their home at 10:30 a.m. and struck the elder man’s ear until it bled while delivering severe blows to his son’s back, the pastor said.
Doctors at the district government hospital said the impairment to his ear is permanent, and that he will need a hearing ....

Latest News

Jesuit activist jailed by Modi government, Triggers massive protests.

Oct 9 Matters India News

The arrest and imprisonment of an 83-year-old Jesuit priest in a two-year-old case have led to massive protests by people’s organizations, activists, intellectuals and concerned citizens from across India.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA), a federal body to counter terror activities in the country, October 8 arrested Father Stanislaus Lourduswamy from his residence at the Bagaicha Campus near Ranchi, capital of Jharkhand state in eastern India.
According to the latest information, the agency October 9 took the priest to Mumbai, in western India, and presented him before a court that sent him to judicial custody until October 23.
The arrest of “Stan Swamy is a gross violation of human rights and democratic norms,” says an October 9 statement endorsed by more than 2,000 ...” 

Beaten Christians Tonsured, Paraded in India. Hindu extremists falsely accuse them of eating cow beef. 

Oct 2 Morningstar News

Pastor Raj Singh was beaten and tonsured in Bherikudar village, Jharkhand state, India on Sept. 16, 2020. After beating and parading Pastor Raj Singh along with four other Christians in eastern India, Hindu extremists were tonsuring them to further ridicule them when one cut the pastor’s head.
“While shaving my head, the razor cut my skull, and blood oozed out,” Pastor Singh said of the Sept. 16 attack in Jharkhand state. “A man standing nearby pointed out the cut and asked the man shaving my head to be careful, to which he promptly answered back saying, ‘This Christian should be grateful that I am only using the razor on his head and not on his neck.’”
After shaving their heads, the mob tied garlands of old shoes and .....

Jharkhand, India: tribal Christians attacked on the basis of false charges of slaughtering a cow

Oct 2 Asia News

The victims were beaten, had their heads shaved, and were forced to sing Jai Shri Ram (Victory to Lord Ram). The attackers came from neighbouring villages. Police arrested four people, and are still looking for another ten. For Christian activist, extremist groups attack using false accusations and spurious evidence, favoured by radical local administrations.
Using a baseless accusation of slaughtering a cow, a group of ‘sacred crow vigilantes’ attacked tribal Dalit Christians in a village in the state of Jharkhand, this according to Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC)
The victims were beaten, had their heads shaved, and were forced to sing Jai Shri Ram (Victory to Lord Ram). The incident took place on 16 September,  ...

Latest News

Indian Christians demand police action against attackers.

Oct 2 UCA News

Christian leaders have urged the government in India's Chhattisgarh state to act against those who attacked 16 Christian families and destroyed their houses for refusing to abandon their faith.
Even after a week, state police have not registered Christians' complaint against the tribal group that attacked them on Sept. 22 and 23, said Pastor Moses Logan.
"Police refused to register a first information report and are forcing the persecuted to compromise with the perpetrators of the crime," Pastor Logan told UCA News on Oct. 2.
A crowd of people opposed to indigenous people following Christianity vandalized 16 houses of tribal Christians in three villages — Kakrabeda, Singanpur and Tiliyabeda — in the state's Bastar region.
"They also assaulted women and children, so many ran into the forest to save their lives," the pastor said......” 

Mobs of Thousands Attack Christian Homes in India.

Sep 29 Mornigstar News 

Animists incited by Hindu extremists as police stand by.
Incited by Hindu extremists, thousands of tribal animists in Chhattisgarh, India last week drove Christians in three villages from their homes in assaults that police declined to prevent or stop in spite of prior warnings, sources said.
The attacks on Sept. 22-23 by mobs that swelled to more than 3,000 agitators damaged homes, sent Christians fleeing for their lives and left a woman hospitalized with serious injuries, but police officers’ only response was to pressure Christians to contribute to the Hindu festivals that were the touch point of the hostilities.
Sivram Koyam, a resident of Kakadbeda in Kondagaon District, said he and other Christians were at the local police station on Sept. 22 trying to warn officers of impending violence when they received calls from relatives saying ....

Government authorities in Karnataka remove 15 crosses from hilltop

Sep 30 ChristianToday 

In a six-hour operation led by government officials on September 23, 15 crosses were removed from Susai Paliya Hill in Chikkaballapur, Karnataka.
The operation was conducted following the order from Karnataka High Court that found the crosses illegally placed on government land without prior approval from authorities.
More than 300 police and revenue officials gathered at St. Joseph's Church in Susai Palya and removed a 32-meter cross that was on the hilltop along with 14 other seven-meter crosses that were on the way to the hilltop.
According to local parish priest Father Antony Britto Rajan, "The government officials acted arbitrarily without any prior notice."
"We have been using the space for more than five decades for praying the Way of the Cross, especially during the Lenten season," he  ...

Latest News

Tribal Christians tonsured and forced to chant 'Jai Shri Ram' in a village in the state of Jharkhand 

Sep 26 Telegraph India:

Seven tribal Christians were allegedly beaten, partially tonsured and forced to chant “Jai Shri Ram” in a Jharkhand village on the unproven allegation that they had slaughtered a cow.
Although the incident happened on September 16 and a police complaint was lodged the next day, the matter became public only on September 25 when former zilla parishad member and social activist Neel Justin Beck told a local news portal about it.
Police confirmed the incident. Shams Tabrez, the superintendent of police in Simdega district where the attack took place, said four of the nine accused named in the FIR had been arrested and the rest would be picked up soon. The FIR also mentions 10 unnamed accused.
Jharkhand had witnessed the lynching of several tribal people and Muslims on unsubstantiated charges of cow slaughter or beef possession during the tenure of its previous BJP-led government (2014-19). ....

Hindus, Ex­-Church Members Attack Christian Family in India .

Sep 25 MornistarNews

Punita Kumari was caring for her family in eastern India the morning of Sept. 14 when leaders of about 25 hard-line Hindu assailants armed with bamboo sticks forced their way into their one-room home
Saying Christians could not live in their village of Jhikatia, Bihar state, the assailants dragged her husband, Pastor Vinouwa Das, out and began beating him, Kumari said.
His sister tried to shield him, and they beat her too, she said. Kumari gathered up her newborn and rushed out, pleading with the assailants to talk about any grievances rather than attack, but they ignored her, she said.
“They shouted at me that we must vacate the premises immediately, and that they will not allow Christian services in the village,” Kumari told Morning Star News. “They were furious and beat me up also with the wooden sticks. It was not even a month since I was out of labor. My newborn also suffered injuries along with me.”.....

India: Woman brutally murdered by Hindu radicals for converting to Christianity. 

Sep 25 Christian Post

A woman in India who had recently converted to Christianity was brutally murdered by four youths associated with a Hindu fanatic group, marking the fifth religiously motivated killing of a Christian in the country in less than two months.
UCA News reports that four youths were arrested in connection with the murder of a Christian woman, Suman Munda, 25, killed in Redhadi, a village in Khunti district, on July 19.
A local pastor who requested anonymity told International Christian Concern that Munda converted to Christianity six years ago. After learning of her conversion, radical Hindu nationalists started harassing her. 
When relatives visited Munda’s house they could not find her, they later discovered her body at a deserted place near her home.
“I suspect that it is the handiwork of a Hindu fanatic group. Christians here have been facing a serious threat  ...

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